I have so much to tell you about my sweet students and our first two weeks of school…it is hard to know where to begin. Maybe I’ll start at the end. That would make sense.
Ending our second week of school this past Friday, I am amazed at how quickly my students are adapting to their new surroundings, boundaries, routine and language. I’d like to think that I don’t put limits on young children, but considering our language barrier and the young age of some of my students…I didn’t expect to see much in regards to results and responses from my students within the first few weeks of school. Well that was just ridiculous. First I will have you know, I have 9 students (usually), ages 2-5. One is an English speaker, one speaks Catalan, two speak mainly French, and the rest speak Kinyarwanda (the native language here in Rwanda). Aside from a few words in each language, I only speak English. Ok, now that you have an idea of what we’re up against, Check out some of our great accomplishments over the past two weeks.
My students can line up with their backs against a wall all by themselves, and with a little help, they can make a line anywhere. They can also sit criss-cross applesauce in a circle without any help. These may seem like basic Preschool motions, but these are no small feat in our class! The first few days of school, neither of these things happened without me individually guiding each child to their spot and directing them how to stand or where and how to sit…not to mention trying to get them to stay there as I helped guide the rest of the kids. Several of my students try to sing along to our songs each day, and some will even attempt to repeat words in English as I teach them. The first few days of school I would have been doing ALL of the talking if it weren’t for my one native English speaker. I still do a lot of the answering to my own questions during class. Oh, here’s a fun one; by the end of the first week, ALL of my students could say and recognize the English word, “bubble.” Boy, do these kids love bubbles. And as my 6th grade student pointed out, bubbles are anything but calm when my kids are around. The second they see my pull out the soapy solution, they all start running and screaming, “BUBBLES!” We go through a lot of bubbles. It’s great entertainment. In case this wasn’t enough, my students are already learning to recognize letters, and some are even beginning to write so-me of the letters in their names. The first week, it was a struggle just to get some kids to put a crayon to their paper. I am thrilled with how well my students are doing, and am so excited to see their continued progress as they grow and learn this year!
Teaching this age, with these cultural and language differences is exhausting. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more thankful for a weekend than I was after our first week of school. It was a long hard week. This past week, though still tiring, went much more smoothly and was a lot of fun. I’m hoping it only gets better from here. I am so proud of these little kids, and am already getting attached to them as their personalities show through a little more each day. By the end of our mornings, I can tell my kids are worn out…some of the younger ones will actually lay on the floor as we near the end of our time and I feel like doing the same thing. Between planning, prepping, teaching, and playing with these kids, I am genuinely worn out at the end of each day…but it’s so worth it.
Wait, there’s more. By the end of the day, I meant by the end of the preschool day, which is only lunchtime. My day doesn’t end there. Two days a week I teach Art to our 2nd-6th graders and high school students in the afternoons, and starting this week I will be doing reading and handwriting with our second graders two days a week. Up until the first week of school, I was supposed to be teaching P.E as well, but thankfully some coworkers took over that class for me. So far, art has been great. As much as I love my preschoolers, it is very refreshing to be able to teach older students that speak English. I can say more than three words at a time and they actually understand me and give a verbal response. It’s pretty exciting. And so far, I have been very pleased with the effort and positive attitude of all of my older students…it makes it a fun class to teach. It is also really neat getting to teach all of the students in our school. Now I remember why I wanted to come back and teach again…it’s such a rewarding and fulfilling use of my time.
Special thanks to Abby Miller for sharing some of the great photos she’s taken of my preschoolers!